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5 financial steps you should take in the coronavirus economy, according to experts

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate fell to 10.2% in July 2020 as 1.4 million people found work. The report credited improvements in the labor market to Americans who resumed the economic activity they had halted during the pandemic. As Congress hashes out a new stimulus plan, it’s important to recognize that the uncertainty the virus brought isn’t yet over. And many Americans are still struggling to pay the bills.

Experts recommend taking these steps to address your personal finances, so you’re in a better position to respond to how the coming months will affect the economy:

  • Step 1: Apply for hardship programs
  • Step 2: Trim your budget
  • Step 3: Find where you can save money
  • Step 4: Sell household items
  • Step 5: Seek guidance

Step 1: Apply for hardship programs

File for all the assistance you can to soften the blow on your cash reserves, says Malik S. Lee, certified financial planner and managing principal for Felton and Peel Wealth Management in Atlanta. “Unemployment is the benefit taking up all of the headlines right now, but don’t forget about SNAP and all the other social programs,” he says. “Remember you’re in survival mode, and the faster you apply for these benefits the better.”

If you have your bills set on autopay, change to manually paying them so you can take advantage of your grace periods being offered by lenders and utility companies, recommends Lee. For example, the CARES Act suspended the payment of federal student loans through September 30. Also, several credit card companies and mortgage lenders are offering hardship programs for those finding it difficult to make the payments.

“Be proactive; don’t wait for creditors to come calling,” says Juan C. Ros, a certified financial planner for Forum Financial Management in Thousand Oaks, Calif. “Contact your landlord or your mortgage provider about payment options if you have been laid off or furloughed. File for unemployment right away. And if you are still working, increase your withholding allowances in order to have more take-home pay.”

Hardship loans can be a good option if you need a temporary fix during hard ties such as coronavirus. But this isn’t your only option. If you have a strong credit history and good credit score, you may qualify for a personal loan that offers a longer repayment term. Use Credible to see if you qualify for a personal loan and determine whether it makes sense for you.

CORONAVIRUS HARDSHIP LOANS: WHAT ARE THEY AND SHOULD I GET ONE?

Step 2: Trim your budget

Your income might be unsteady, but some of your spending is within your control. While it seems basic, figure out your budget, says Matthew Gaffey, a certified financial planner for Corbett Road Wealth Management in McLean, Va.

“Start by consistently tracking your spending and figuring out where your money is going,” he says. “If you find it is going towards items or activities you don’t truly want or need and you can reallocate that money towards savings or activities that support you attaining your goals, then do so.”

The coronavirus shed light on our priorities, adds Gaffey. “Many people have already started or are in the process of simplifying their lives,” he says. “For example, while many gyms have reopened at this point, they were closed for months and those people who wanted to exercise during that time, were forced to find other alternatives. If those alternatives proved efficient and less costly, why are you still paying for your gym membership?”

This is the perfect time to trim the fat out of your budget, says Marianela Collado, a certified financial planner with Tobias Financial Advisors in Plantation, Fla. “With such ease of transacting these days, people got really comfortable automating everything from monthly subscriptions and quick one-click Amazon buys,” she says. “Now is the time to buckle up and reassess what is really necessary. Use programs like Mint.com or Quicken to become aware of where your money is going. Awareness is key to make changes.”

HOW TO SAVE MONEY DURING CORONAVIRUS

Step 3: Find where you can save money

In addition to cutting costs, look for places to reduce them.

“It’s always worth a call to your auto and home insurance agent to see if you can reduce your insurance expenses,” says Devin Pope, a certified financial planner with Albion Financial Group in Salt Lake City, Utah. “And check with your cable, internet, phone and alarm companies. Sometimes they’re running specials, and you won’t get them if you don’t call.”

It’s also an excellent time to refinance your mortgage with rates at record lows. According to Freddie Mac, the latest rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to a new record-low of 2.88 percent, which is a decrease of 0.11 percent from the previous week. And the average rate for a 15-year fixed mortgage also fell, dropping from 2.51 percent to 2.44 percent in the same period.

If your credit score didn’t drop due to the pandemic, this could be an ideal time to cash in on the market conditions. See how much money you could save with a mortgage refinance by visiting Credible to compare rates and lenders.

MORTGAGE RATES ARE LOW — HOW REFINANCING NOW COULD SAVE YOU MONEY

Step 4: Sell household items

In addition to cutting expenses, find ways to add revenue streams. Many people took the increased time they spent at home to clean closets and declutter. You can turn some of those items into cash by holding a garage sale or posting on sites like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or Mercari.

You can also sell your stuff to consignment stores or online resellers. The average U.S. household has $199 in unwanted tech devices, according to a survey by Decluttr, a tech resale site that will buy your gadgets as well as books, CDs and DVDs. And if you’ve got old textbooks laying around, several companies will buy them. You can compare offers at BookFinder.com.

Step 5: Seek guidance

Pro bono financial counseling is available in many areas, so take advantage of the free help, says Ros.

“Utilize resources like Greenpath Financial Wellness or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling,” he says. “Seek comfort in a faith-based or spiritual community, and contact a mental health professional if you experience stress or anxiety.”

Moments like these are a reminder of why planning and emergency funds are so critical, says Collado. “[Your finances are] never a set-it-and-forget-it project,” she says. “Life is all about the unpredictable.”

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How to get approved for a personal loan when you have student debt

If you need to consolidate debt or pay for an unexpected emergency, you may consider a personal loan. However, if you have a high amount of student debt, you may be wondering about your chances of being approved. Lenders assess borrowers in a variety of ways. It helps to know where you stand, and the steps you can take to get the funding you need.

Factors lenders look at in personal loan applications

Personal loans are usually unsecured, which means you don’t have to put up any collateral. As a result, lenders scrutinize applicants to minimize their risk. Banks will look at three key elements as they determine your ability to repay the debt.

  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Credit history
  • Career or education experience

1. Debt-to-income ratio

A lender will look at how much debt you already have compared to your income. This is called your “debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.” To determine yours, add up all of your debts, such as your student loans, car notes, and credit card balances, and divide it by your monthly gross income. If you have multiple student loans, they will impact your ratio. Most lenders prefer a borrower to have a DTI ratio of 40 percent or lower.

For example, if your monthly income is $4,000 and you have a monthly car payment of $500, a credit card minimum payment of $100, and a student loan payment of $400, your DTI is 25 percent. But if you have several federal student loans and private student loans with a total monthly bill due of $1,200, your DTI would be 45 percent, which will hurt your chances of being approved.

Online marketplace Credible is a great resource when it comes to personal loan shopping. Just insert your desired amount and some basic information to see what kind of rates you qualify for.

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR DEBT-TO-INCOME RATIO

2. Credit history

Lenders will also look for applicants who have a good credit history, which shows that you pay your bills on time. If you’ve been diligent with your loan payment, they could work in your favor because it demonstrates you’ve been a good borrower in the past.

You can check personal loan rates through Credible without affecting your score.

HOW MUCH DOES A PERSONAL LOAN AFFECT YOUR CREDIT SCORE?

Lenders will review your credit history by looking at your credit report and FICO credit score. Your credit score is based on your repayment history, the age of your credit, your credit utilization, the types of credit you have, and the number of inquiries on your credit report. Lenders prefer applicants with a good credit score, which falls between 700 and 749, or an excellent credit score, which is 750 or higher.

3. Career or education experience

Lenders may also consider your career and education experience to determine your job stability. If you’re still in school and have loans, you may have a hard time qualifying for a personal loan. But if you’ve completed your degree and have spent a few years in your job, you’ll probably have a greater chance of getting the funding as lenders prefer borrowers with professional experience and degrees.

HOW TO GRADUATE COLLEGE WITH (ALMOST) NO DEBT

How can you boost your chances of getting approved?

If you are turned down for a loan or suspect you will be, you can take some steps to improve your chances.

First, ensure that you’re paying your debts on time. If you are having trouble being current with your bills, review your budget and look for areas where you can cut back to free up cash. Once you’ve got a few months of paying your bills on time under your belt, you can look for a loan from some of the best personal loan lenders.

Another step to take is to improve your DTI ratio by consolidating debt and refinancing your student loans into one lower monthly payment. Use an online loan refinancing calculator like this one from Credible to get a sense of your new monthly payments and how they will affect your DTI ratio. Compare multiple refinancing companies to search for the lowest rates.

While it may be tempting to send out several credit applications, be cautious. Having too many hard inquiries can negatively impact your credit score — and your chances of being approved. Instead, use an online tool like Credible.

You may also consider getting a consigner on your personal loan. If you have a family member or friend who has good credit and would be willing to vouch for you, it could improve your chances for approval, reduce the interest rate you’ll be charged, and provide you with a chance to improve your credit history going forward.

A personal loan is possible when you have student debt, as long as you’ve proved yourself to be a credit-worthy borrower. When you’re ready to apply, visit Credible, where you can shop and compare lenders and rates to find the best offer and terms for your situation.

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5 ways to make money using your credit card

Credit card bonuses and rewards are just one piece of the puzzle. (iStock)

When used responsibly, credit cards can provide a lot of value to consumers. If you don’t have one, or if you don’t use yours regularly, you may be leaving money on the table.

Here are five ways you can make some extra money from your credit card:

  1. Earn credit card bonuses
  2. Use your card every day
  3. Use a balance transfer credit card to pay down debt
  4. Use your card to shop online
  5. Use a 0% APR card 

Read on to learn more about how utilizing these methods can improve your cash flow.

1. Earn credit card bonuses

Many rewards credit cards offer sign-up bonuses after you open a new card and meet certain requirements. For example, many cash-back credit cards will give you a couple hundred dollars in the form of cash back, points or miles if you spend $500 or $1,000 in the first few months.

Some credit card issuers also offer ongoing credit card bonuses that you can take advantage of in the long term. For example, some may give you a points or miles rebate every time you redeem your rewards. Or you may receive an annual rewards bonus based on your spending—or just because.

Explore and compare credit card offers using Credible — just remember to consider the requirements and annual fees associated with the card, along with the other card features.https://www.credible.com/partners-widgets/credit-card/card-table/?variation=interactive&theme=fox&credclid=8b126b86-4b51-4c6b-b106-c5c51ee41dea

HOW DO REWARDS CREDIT CARDS WORK?

2. Use your card every day 

In addition to credit card bonuses, rewards cards also offer ongoing rewards on your everyday purchases. The more you use your card, the more you’ll earn. Some credit cards offer bonus rewards on certain spending categories, such as groceries, gas or restaurants.

As you consider the right card for you, consider your spending habits and pick the card that will reward you the most based on your budget. In some cases, it may be worth it to use multiple credit cards to maximize your rewards.

Credible provides an overview of a variety of credit cards. Browse Credible’s online tools to see offers from different lenders and decide which option best fits your financial needs.https://www.credible.com/partners-widgets/credit-card/simple-cta/?variation=compare-cards-all&theme=fox&credclid=8b126b86-4b51-4c6b-b106-c5c51ee41dea

HOW FICO’S NEW CREDIT SCORE CHANGES WILL AFFECT YOU

3. Use your card to shop online

If you use your credit card to shop online, you may be able to earn even more rewards on top of what you earn with your card.

Cash-back websites like Rakuten and Topcashback will reward you when you shop at certain retailers. Start by visiting the cash back website and search for the retailer you’re planning to shop with, then click through to that retailer’s website and make your purchase like you normally would. These websites use cookies to track your shopping experience and reward you based on how much you spend.

You can use websites like Cashback Monitor to compare these shopping portals to ensure you’re always getting the best rewards rate on your online purchases.

Cash back credit cards can also help put money back in your pocket. To earn while you shop, check out the several cash back cards listed on Credible.https://www.credible.com/partners-widgets/credit-card/simple-cta/?variation=compare-cards-cashback&theme=fox&credclid=8b126b86-4b51-4c6b-b106-c5c51ee41dea

CREDIT CARD CASH BACK VS. POINTS: WHICH IS BETTER?

4. Use a balance transfer credit card to pay down debt

If you’re working on paying down credit card debt, consider using a balance transfer credit card to save money on interest, allowing you to hold onto more of your cash.

Balance transfer cards offer introductory 0% APR promotions for a period, typically between six and 20 months. When you apply, you can transfer your balance from another card and pay off your credit card debt during the promotional period interest-free.

These cards often come with a balance transfer fee, which typically ranges from 3 to 5% of the transferred balance. But depending on the size of the balance and your other card’s interest rate, the savings can still far outweigh that cost. Also, some cards don’t charge a balance transfer fee at all. Check Credible to see what balance transfer cards have to offer.https://www.credible.com/partners-widgets/credit-card/simple-cta/?variation=compare-cards-balance-transfer&theme=fox&credclid=8b126b86-4b51-4c6b-b106-c5c51ee41dea

PROS AND CONS OF BALANCE TRANSFER CARDS

5. Use a 0% APR card 

If you’re thinking of making a large purchase or are experiencing a financial emergency, a 0% APR credit card can provide you with a trio of money-making opportunities. These cards function similarly to balance transfer cards but offer zero percent interest rates for a set period on new purchases.

Many of these cards also offer sign-up bonuses and everyday rewards, which can provide even more value on your purchase. Credible can help find the right credit card for you. Choose zero percent credit cards and get a breakdown of the annual fee, welcome offers, credit needed and more.https://www.credible.com/partners-widgets/credit-card/simple-cta/?variation=zero-percent&theme=fox&credclid=8b126b86-4b51-4c6b-b106-c5c51ee41dea

GET 0% APR CREDIT CARDS TO SAVE MONEY — HERE’S HOW

How to determine if an annual fee is worth it

As you look for credit cards that can help you make money, you’ll likely see many that charge annual fees. While annual fees can eat into the value you gain from a credit card, they’re not always bad.

Take a look at the card’s rewards program and other perks it provides to determine how much value you can get from it on an annual basis. With mileage rewards cards, for instance, you can get perks like free checked bags and in-flight discounts that help neutralize the cost of an annual fee.https://www.credible.com/partners-widgets/credit-card/rich-cta/?variation=copy-only&theme=fox&credclid=8b126b86-4b51-4c6b-b106-c5c51ee41dea

WHAT APR MEANS ON YOUR CREDIT CARDS

Once you’ve determined the value a card provides versus its annual fee, compare that with the value you can get from a card with no annual fee. Depending on your spending habits and how you plan to use the card, an annual-fee option may be worth it.

Whatever you do, create and budget and stick to it to avoid overspending, and always pay your monthly bill on time and in full to avoid interest charges. Using your card responsibly can also help build your credit history and credit score, which can provide more options to save and make money in the future.

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How to earn money online

Earning money has typically been associated with and restricted to traditional ‘offline’ route. With the Internet taking over a large part of our lives, more people are looking to ways to earn money online to increase their financial inflows, with secondary income streams.

However, you should be mindful of the platform that you opt for. While there are numerous ways to earn money online, some of these might be fake. Also, do not expect to earn a huge amount quickly when using online avenues to earn money.

Now with a situation involving more time at home and/or more free time in general, maybe fewer working hours for some, some of you might also have some free time. Here are a few online platforms, websites and resources that can help you earn money online.

1. Freelancing
Freelancing has always been a popular way to earn money online and the Internet has several options. There are several websites offering freelance tasks for people with varying skills. All you need to do is to create an account, browse through the listings, and apply for the task that suits you. Some websites may even require you to create a personal listing with the details of your skillset, so that interested clients can contact you directly. Outfiverr.com, upwork.com, freelancer.com, and worknhire.com are some websites that provide freelance jobs. You can earn anywhere between $5 and $100 through these websites.

But remember, you will only get paid once you successfully complete the given task and it has been approved by your client. This may even mean revising the work several times unless the requirements of your clients are met. Some sites may ask you to set up a PayPal account, as most clients prefer to make payments digitally via it.

2. Starting your own website
There is enough material available online to help you put together your own website. This includes choosing the domain, templates, layout and the overall design for your website. Once ready to service the visitors with the relevant content, sign up for Google Adsense, which when appear on your website and clicked on by visitors, help you make money. The more traffic you get on your website, the more will be the potential for higher earnings.

3. Affiliate marketing
Once your website is up and running, you could opt for affiliate marketing by allowing companies to insert web links on to your site. This is like a symbiotic partnership. When visitors to your site buy products or services by clicking on such links, you earn out from it.

4. Surveys, searches and reviews
There are various websites offering money to undergo online surveys, carry out online searches, and write reviews on products. To get the credit, one needs to disclose certain information to them including one’s banking details. This is why you should use this route with utmost care. Some of them may even ask you to register with them before working on projects. The most important watch out in such projects is to stay away from websites offering money that appears too good to be true. Be careful while evaluating the reputation of the website as many of them could be a scam. Most sites promote businesses showing copies of cheque payments which may have been given to the middlemen only.

5. Virtual assistantship
Doing all the corporate stuff from one’s home is what a virtual assistant (VA) does. VAs basically work remotely with their clients and manage the aspects of their business that they are too busy to handle themselves. When you work as a virtual assistant, you can choose to work as an employee or you can set up your own business.

VAs are skilled, home-based professionals that offer companies, businesses, and entrepreneurs administrative support. Some of the major areas of work includes making phone calls, email correspondence, Internet research, data entry, scheduling appointments, editing, writing, book keeping, marketing, blog management, proofreading, project management, graphic design, tech support, customer service, event planning, and social media management.

Becoming a VA may require some degree of training or briefing, depending on your qualifications. However, if you possess good communication skills and are capable of using applications like MS Office, you can just sign up on sites such as Elance.com, 24/7 Virtual Assistant, Assistant Match, eaHelp, Freelancer, FlexJobs, People Per Hour, Uassist.Me, Upwork, VaVa Virtual Assistants, Virtual Staff Finder, Worldwide 101, Ziptask, Zirtual and so on.

6. Language translating
Knowing a language other than English may even help you earn some extra money. There are several websites that offer translation projects that require translating a document from one language into another. This may include Spanish, French, Arab, German, or any other language to or from English.

For many, this can make the task rather time-consuming and therefore they hire translators available online from anywhere across the globe. Several websites such as Freelancer.in, Fiverr.com, worknhire.com or Upwork.com offers you a platform to be a professional translator.

Those who do not have the knowledge or the time to complete their projects on their own, put up their work on these platforms where you can register and start bidding on translation jobs and get paid in the range of Rs 1-Rs 5 per word. This can go up to Rs 10 for some languages.

7. Online tutoring
If you are an expert in a particular subject, you can earn by tutoring people online. Online tutoring provides a means to connect online with students of all ages, across the country to provide homework help and tutoring in the subjects for which you have demonstrated expertise.

One may sign up on websites like Vedantu.com, MyPrivateTutor.com, BharatTutors.com, tutorindia.net as an online tutor by creating a profile, and listing the subjects or classes you want to teach, how much experience you have, what your qualifications are, etc. Some of the platforms may offer flexible and convenient time to work as an online tutor.

Most platforms follow this process- they ask you to apply by filling a simple form, after which a teaching demo will have to given their experts. Once selected, documentation and profile creation will be done, followed by training and induction webinar. Once you attend the webinar, you will be listed as a teacher and will get your online sessions to conduct. Beginners can make around Rs 200 per hour, which can go up to Rs 500 as you gain experience and expertise.

8. Social media management, strategy
In addition to interacting with friends and strangers, social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat can be used to make money. Companies and brands pay social media strategists to further boost the popularity of their products. With lots of competition around and the constantly shortening of attention time of online viewers, creativity is essential to create posts, videos etc that can go viral quickly and enhance the brand value. Remember, social media needs dedicated time and energy to stay relevant. Hence, you need to share posts regularly and interact with your followers on a regular basis.

9. Web designing
Not all business owners are tech savvy but the need of the hour is to have a website of their own. Those who have a knack for all- things- tech, especially related to websites, can help small businesses set up their own websites and earn from it. Coding and web designing are the essential ingredients in setting up websites. Further, websites need maintenance and may require frequent updates, which may add to one’s revenue.

10. Content writing
Online platforms can be a good starting point. Depending on the quality of the articles, one gets paid. One may be asked to work upon articles with specific guidelines as well. Develop a niche in your area of expertise and build strength in that domain to increase the revenue stream.

11. Blogging
It starts with a hobby, interest, and passion and soon blogging becomes a career option for many bloggers. There are a number of full-time bloggers. There are two ways to start a blog: you can either create a blog through WordPress or Tumblr, which requires no investment, or go for a self-hosted blog.

In case of the latter, you will have to invest in and spend money on domain name and server hosting space that can cost you between Rs 3,000-Rs 5,000 a year. Self-hosted blogs have an added advantage that it allows you to customise elements and functionality of your website. In case of the former, you need to make peace with the tools and plug-ins made available by the service provider.

You may monetise the blogs through ads, product reviews, and so on. But remember, earning through blogging may also take a lot of time and effort. For some, it may take as long as year to actually earn through blogging.

12. YouTube
If you are not comfortable in penning down your thoughts through blogs and content writing, make use of your camera to create a video presentation. Create your YouTube channel, upload videos and start monetising them. Choose a category or subject that you want to make videos on and get started, but make sure it’s a topic that will interest a lot of people. Everything from cooking shows to political debates can find many takers on YouTube. You have to create a YouTube channel, which works on a similar model as a blog. As you make your channel popular and the number of subscribers grows, so will your earning potential. The payment one gets is based on every thousand views.

13. Kindle eBook
If writing books interests you, one option you can exercise is self-publish eBooks and paperbacks with Kindle Direct Publishing, and reach millions of readers on Amazon. Publishing takes less than 5 minutes and your book appears on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours. One can earn up to 70 percent royalty on sales to customers in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, India, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, and so on. One can keep control of one’s rights and set their own list prices and also make changes to one’s books at any time. BooksFundr and Pblishing.com are two other places to get your book published and earn money.

14. Selling your products online
If you want to sell products online, you may can it by creating your own website. As there’s lot of competition and several existing websites in place already catering to this market, an attempt to create a niche in terms of products may be considered. Or, you can use the platform such as Amazon, Flipkart to sell. One can increase reach and visibility through affiliate marketing.

15. PTC sites
Several websites offer money (after a minimum level of earning) by clicking on advertisements. Hence, they are called paid-to-click (PTC) sites. One has to get registered before the project begins. Not all of these sites could be genuine, so be careful. One may also refer friends and earn money in the process. Some such sites are ClixSense.com , BuxP and NeoBux are some of such PTC sites.

16. Peer to peer
Similar to e-commerce websites such as Amazon and OLX, a peer-to-peer (P2P) platform is a marketplace for money lending activities. You can lend money to others in a more organised and structured manner using the P2P lending platform. The P2P platforms have the recovery process in place and one should understand it before using the services of the platform. Since this is an unsecured loan where there is no face-to-face interaction, a P2P lender needs to be aware of the risks involved.

17. Data entry
Although this line of work is seriously threatened by automation, there are still plenty of data entry jobs available in India. It is one the simplest jobs you can do online, and requires no special skills. You just have to have a computer, Internet connection, fast typing skills, and the ability to pay attention to details. Most freelancing websites list these jobs, and you can sign up on any of them to start earning in the range of Rs 300 to Rs 1,500 per hour

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A risky roll call turns into a surprise moment of national unity

Locked down, isolated and fearful as a pandemic fractured national bonds and the power of community, America got a sudden, startling look at itself on Tuesday night as the Democratic National Convention’s virtual roll call vote whipped coast to coast and around the globe.For a few sunny minutes, the despondency of the summer of Covid lifted during a celebratory glimpse into the country’s vibrant geographic diversity, cultural breadth and enduring common purpose. A risky television production experiment that could have gone badly wrong instead turned into a pageant of national unity, and injected unusual bounce into nominee Joe Biden’s basement campaign.

Here are the most notable moments from the DNC's virtual roll call

Here are the most notable moments from the DNC’s virtual roll callIt was the surprise highlight of an evening showcasing the party’s past and present, including two aged former presidents, the young star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, more Republicans speaking in support of the nominee, and his wife, Jill Biden. And it might just have given the nation’s flattened tourism industry the kind of publicity money can’t buy.State-by-state roll calls — an academic exercise now that political consultants have consigned contested conventions to history — drag when parades of grandstanding delegates grab their moments of fame in crowded, hot convention halls.Not this time.

An advertisement for America

The virtual tour played out in short recorded videos, and live shots became a tantalizing glimpse of a vast and fertile land that is out there waiting once the current nightmare — in which more than 170,000 people have died, millions lost their jobs and tens of millions have been cut off from friends, coworkers and loved ones — finally abates.The ultimate outdoor Room Rater moment served up stunning backdrops from rocky crags in Colorado to the Bering Sea in Alaska and Arizona cacti. It swept from American Samoa, with a verdant mountain vista, to a farmyard in Maine and on to Michigan’s delegation in the Motor City, standing like salesmen in a local TV ad in front of three gleaming new vehicles.Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania delivered the Keystone State’s votes outside Biden’s boyhood home, and in front of a sign reading “Scranton Loves Joe!”The vote poignantly started on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where the recently deceased John Lewis had marched into history. And where else would “Amtrak” Joe Biden’s presidential nominating roll call wrap up but a platform of the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station in Wilmington, Delaware?Some states, with an eye toward the dormant tourist trade that will one day return, showcased local flavor, dress and the quirky traditions that weave the tapestry of diverse cultures that is modern America.If nothing else sticks from the second night of the Democratic virtual convention, everyone will remember Rhode Island’s calamari chef, who immediately went viral on social media. The delegation from the Northern Mariana Islands welcomed the country to “paradise” as it cast two votes for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and nine for Biden.In one reminder of the packed arenas that are unthinkable in the age of Covid-19, many states and territories did still display their distinctive posts, which normally identify each state delegation on the crowded floor.

Somber notes amid the celebrations

This whip around America was not necessarily totally partisan, despite featuring Democratic candidates, lawmakers and activists for various causes.Had they turned the sound down, any stray Republicans might at least have enjoyed the scenery. And the GOP will get the chance to go one better in its big show next week when it nominates President Donald Trump for a second term.Still, there were haunting reminders of the country’s current plight and the political tensions that have ripped the nation’s fabric in a dark year.Many delegations stood socially distanced, 6 feet apart. Most delegates wore masks, in a spectacle that may not be repeated when Republicans meet under similar circumstances, given widespread conservative skepticism of the practice.And when the camera moved to Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser was framed above Black Lives Matter Plaza on the road leading to the White House.Convention organizers had been concerned that the roll call vote was a technical disaster in the making. But in the end, it went off seamlessly and ended up creating an unforgettable national moment.”No one has ever watched or cared about the roll call vote except the people in the convention hall. Tonight, it told a story of unity and it just worked in this moment,” a senior Democratic official told CNN’s Jeff Zeleny.”Tonight, the old school aspects of the convention came to life in ways unexpected — roll call and videos — after six months of Americans becoming accustomed to virtual meetings. The intimacy worked better than expected.”In fact, the nationwide roll call worked so well, and with the Republican version to come next week, it’s hard to imagine the parties ever going back to the old way when the faithful meet — in person — in 2024.

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অস্ত্র মামলায় সাহেদের বিরুদ্ধে অভিযোগ গঠনের শুনানি ২৭ আগস্ট

অস্ত্র নিয়ন্ত্রণ আইনের মামলায় রিজেন্ট গ্রুপের চেয়ারম্যান মোহাম্মদ সাহেদ ওরফে সাহেদ করিমের বিরুদ্ধে দেওয়া অভিযোগপত্র আমলে নিয়েছেন আদালত। ২৭ আগস্ট এই মামলার অভিযোগ গঠনের শুনানির তারিখ ধার্য করা হয়েছে।

আজ বুধবার ঢাকার ১ নম্বর স্পেশাল ট্রাইব্যুনালের বিচারক কে এম ইমরুল কায়েস এই অভিযোগপত্র আমলে নেন। পরে অভিযোগ গঠনের শুনানির তারিখ ধার্য করেন।

অস্ত্র নিয়ন্ত্রণ আইনের মামলায় রিজেন্ট গ্রুপের চেয়ারম্যান মোহাম্মদ সাহেদ ওরফে সাহেদ করিমের বিরুদ্ধে দেওয়া অভিযোগপত্র আমলে নিয়েছেন আদালত। ২৭ আগস্ট এই মামলার অভিযোগ গঠনের শুনানির তারিখ ধার্য করা হয়েছে।

আজ বুধবার ঢাকার ১ নম্বর স্পেশাল ট্রাইব্যুনালের বিচারক কে এম ইমরুল কায়েস এই অভিযোগপত্র আমলে নেন। পরে অভিযোগ গঠনের শুনানির তারিখ ধার্য করেন।

আজ আসামি সাহেদকে আদালতে হাজির করা হয়। সাহেদের পক্ষে জামিনের আবেদন করা হলে আদালত তা নাকচ করেন।

সাহেদের আইনজীবী মোহাম্মদ নাজমুল হোসেন প্রথম আলোকে বলেন, আদালতের অনুমতি নিয়ে তিনি সাহেদের সঙ্গে কথা বলেছেন। সাহেদ তাঁকে জানিয়েছেন, এক মাসের বেশি রিমান্ডে থাকায় মানসিকভাবে তিনি ভেঙে পড়েছেন।

রাষ্ট্রপক্ষের কৌঁসুলি তাপস কুমার পাল প্রথম আলোকে বলেন, অস্ত্র নিয়ন্ত্রণ আইনের মামলায় সাহেদের বিরুদ্ধে দেওয়া অভিযোগপত্র আমলে নিয়েছেন আদালত। ২৭ আগস্ট অভিযোগ গঠনের শুনানির তারিখ ঠিক করেছেন আদালত।

৩০ জুলাই ঢাকার উত্তরা পশ্চিম থানায় করা অস্ত্র নিয়ন্ত্রণ আইনের মামলায় সাহেদের বিরুদ্ধে আদালতে অভিযোগপত্র দেয় পুলিশ।

৭ জুলাই উত্তরার রিজেন্ট হাসপাতালে অভিযান চালান র‍্যাবের ভ্রাম্যমাণ আদালত। হাসপাতাল থেকে করোনা পরীক্ষার ভুয়া রিপোর্ট জব্দ করা হয়। এ ঘটনায় র‍্যাব বাদী হয়ে সাহেদসহ ১৭ জনের বিরুদ্ধে উত্তরা পশ্চিম থানায় মামলা করে। মামলার পর গত ১৫ জুলাই সাহেদকে সাতক্ষীরা থেকে গ্রেপ্তার করে র‍্যাব।

পরদিন ১৬ জুলাই ঢাকার চিফ মেট্রোপলিটন ম্যাজিস্ট্রেট (সিএমএম) আদালত সাহেদের ১০ দিনের রিমান্ড মঞ্জুর করেন।

আদালতে অনুমতি 

নিয়ে পুলিশের গোয়েন্দা শাখা (ডিবি) সাহেদকে সঙ্গে নিয়ে গত ১৮ জুলাই উত্তরা পশ্চিম থানা এলাকায় অভিযান চালিয়ে অস্ত্র ও মাদক উদ্ধার করে।

সাহেদের বিরুদ্ধে ঢাকাসহ সারা দেশে ৫০টির বেশি মামলা রয়েছে। বেশির ভাগই প্রতারণার অভিযোগে করা মামলা।

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আকস্মিক সফরে ঢাকায় আসছেন ভারতের পররাষ্ট্রসচিব

ভারতের পররাষ্ট্রসচিব হর্ষ বর্ধন শ্রিংলা সংক্ষিপ্ত এক আকস্মিক সফরে কাল মঙ্গলবার দুপুরে ঢাকায় আসছেন। গত মার্চের পর ভারতের পররাষ্ট্রসচিবের এটি দ্বিতীয় ঢাকা সফর।

আজ সোমবার সন্ধ্যায় ঢাকার কূটনৈতিক সূত্রগুলো ভারতের পররাষ্ট্রসচিবের সফরের বিষয়টি প্রথম আলোকে নিশ্চিত করেছে। তবে এত কম সময়ের মধ্যে, বিশেষ করে করোনাভাইরাস সংক্রমণের সময় কেন এই অনির্ধারিত সফর তা নিয়ে কোনো মন্তব্য করতে সূত্রগুলো রাজি হয়নি।

নির্ভরযোগ্য সরকারি সূত্রের বরাত দিয়ে প্রথম আলোর নয়াদিল্লি প্রতিনিধি জানান, গত সপ্তাহে ভারতের প্রধানমন্ত্রী নরেন্দ্র মোদি মন্ত্রিসভার সদস্যদের সঙ্গে প্রতিবেশী দেশের সঙ্গে সম্পর্ক নিয়ে কথা বলেন। ওই আলোচনায় নরেন্দ্র মোদি দুই নিকট প্রতিবেশী বাংলাদেশ ও নেপালের সঙ্গে ঘনিষ্ঠতা বজায় রাখার ওপর জোর দেন।

সূত্রগুলো আভাস দিয়েছে, প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনার সঙ্গে হর্ষ বর্ধন শ্রিংলা সৌজন্য সাক্ষাৎ করবেন। এর পাশাপাশি তিনি পররাষ্ট্রমন্ত্রী এ কে আবদুল মোমেন ও পররাষ্ট্র প্রতিমন্ত্রী মো. শাহরিয়ার আলমের সঙ্গেও সৌজন্য সাক্ষাৎ করবেন। সংক্ষিপ্ত এ সফরের সময় পররাষ্ট্রসচিব মাসুদ বিন মোমেনের সঙ্গে ভারতের পররাষ্ট্রসচিবের বৈঠক হবে।

ঢাকায় ভারতীয় হাইকমিশন এবং নয়াদিল্লিতে বাংলাদেশ হাইকমিশনে যোগাযোগ করা হলে এ সফর নিয়ে কোনো পক্ষই মন্তব্য করেনি। সাধারণত পররাষ্ট্রসচিব পর্যায়ের এ ধরনের সফরে ক্ষেত্রে সরকারিভাবে ঘোষণা দেওয়া হয়ে থাকে।

জানা গেছে, করোনাভাইরাসের চ্যালেঞ্জ মোকাবিলাকে কেন্দ্র করে বাংলাদেশের সঙ্গে অতীতের যে কোন সময়ের তুলনায় আরও কাছাকাছি এসেছে চীন। বাংলাদেশের সঙ্গে চীনের এই ঘনিষ্ঠতা ভারতের জন্য নতুন করে অস্বস্তি তৈরি করেছে। তাই জনস্বাস্থ্যের ঝুঁকি মোকাবিলাতে বাংলাদেশকে যত বেশি সম্ভব সহযোগিতার বিষয়টি গুরুত্বের সঙ্গে দেখছে ভারত। এতে করে বাংলাদেশের সঙ্গে সম্পর্কের ক্ষেত্রে নিজেদের অবস্থান আরও সুসংহত করা সম্ভব বলে দেশটি মনে করছে।

কূটনৈতিক সূত্রগুলো জানিয়েছে, করোনাভাইরাসের সংক্রমণের এই সময়টাতে বিশ্বের অন্যান্য প্রান্তের মতো দুই নিকট প্রতিবেশীর সব ধরনের যোগাযোগ ব্যবস্থায় বিরতি টানতে হয়েছে। এরপরও পণ্য সরবরাহ ব্যবস্থায় যে বিঘ্ন সৃষ্টি হয়েছিল তা দূর করতে দুই দেশ নতুন নতুন পদক্ষেপ নিয়েছে। গত ছয় মাসে দুই পক্ষের অনির্ধারিত অনেকগুলো বৈঠক স্থগিত হলেও বিভিন্ন ক্ষেত্রে সহযোগিতা অব্যাহত রাখার নানা উদ্যোগ নেওয়া হয়েছে। দুই প্রধানমন্ত্রী একাধিকবার ফোনে কথাও বলেছেন। সামগ্রিকভাবে করোনাভাইরাস মোকাবিলায় একে অন্যকে কীভাবে সহযোগিতা করছে এবং ভবিষ্যতেও করবে এ বিষয়টির পাশাপাশি দ্বিপক্ষীয় সহযোগিতার বিভিন্ন বিষয়ে ঢাকা সফরে আলোচনা করতে পারেন হর্ষ বর্ধন শ্রিংলা।

বাংলাদেশে ভারতের সাবেক হাইকমিশনার হর্ষ বর্ধন শ্রিংলা এ বছরের জানুয়ারিতে সে দেশের পররাষ্ট্রসচিব হিসেবে দায়িত্ব নেন।